Jewish composer and singer Ben Zion Shenker passed away Sunday morning at the age of 92.
Shenker, one of the most gifted and prominent Jewish musical figures of the past century, was known for preserving the Modzitzer musical tradition. He produced some of the earliest records of hassidic music, featuring Modzitz nigunim (hassidic melodies) for holiday prayers and Saturday night Melave Malka, creating his own Neginah record label to do so.
He also composed hundreds of songs and melodies for prayers and biblical verses during his career, some of which are sung by large numbers of Jews every Sabbath, such as his melodies for the Friday night song 'Eishes Chayil' ('A Woman of Valour'), and Sabbath afternoon meal seuda shlishit 'Mizmor L'Dovid' ('A Song of David'), both to words from the Bible.
He also introduced Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, another famous Jewish composer and singer who was two years younger than Shenker, to the Modzitzer tradition.
Shenker was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1925. His parents were immigrants from Poland. In the 1940s he annotated the music which the Modzitzer rebbes had composed, this after being spellbound by the singing of Modzitzer Rebbe Rabbi Saul Taub and the.Holocaust survivors who attended their shtiebl in Brooklyn.
Shenker later graduated from the New York Conservatory of Music. He became the first person to produce authentic hassidic music professionally and led to many other hassidic groups beginning to record their music a short time later. More than 600 of his tunes have been distributed around the world.
Attorney David Zeira, the founder of the Modzitz Musical Heritage Institute, told Arutz Sheva "He was the greatest of the composers of the people of Israel. Every Jewish home sang at least two of his songs every Sabbath, 'Eishes Chayil' and 'Mizmor L'Dovid.'"
"He composed more than 500 songs. He composed melodies for weddings, sad melodies, and melodies designed for all the days of the year. Each was more beautiful than the last."